True Woman 101: Divine Design

There have been a couple of really good blog posts recently about the need to be discerning in what we read. Good reviews, impressive recommendations, even the stellar reputation of the authors shouldn’t be all that we rely on in deciding the worth of a book. Scripture tells us to be careful about the messages we listen to and to test them based on Scripture. In Acts, the people of Berea are commended for “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

It’s in that spirit that I’m writing this review. Not to score points in a debate or to win an argument. Not to prove someone wrong or to pat myself on the back. Bad doctrine hurts the church, and specifically, it hurts the people in the pews.

True Woman 101: Divine Design is a eight week Bible study intended for women. The book brief on Amazon.com reads:

What does it mean to be a woman? The current cultural ideal for womanhood encourages women to be strident, sexual, self-centered, independent — and above all — powerful and in control. But sadly, this model of womanhood hasn’t delivered the happiness and fulfillment it promised. The Bible teaches that it’s not up to us to decide what womanhood is all about. God created male and female for a very specific purpose. His design isn’t arbitrary or unimportant. It is very intentional and He wants women to discover, embrace, and delight in the beauty of His design. He’s looking for True Women!

Bible teachers Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss share the key fundamentals of biblical womanhood in this eight week study. Each week includes five daily individual lessons leading to a group time of sharing and digging deeper into God’s Word. And to enhance this time of learning together, on-line videos are available featuring Mary and Nancy as they encourage women to discover and embrace God’s design and mission for their lives.

The authors are Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. From their bios on the True Woman website:

Mary is a distinguished professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the author of several books including The Feminist Mistake and In My Father’s House.

And

Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a beloved mentor and “spiritual mother” to hundreds of thousands of women who have read her best-selling books and who listen to her two daily radio programs, Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

Because of my particular interest in the discussion in complementarian circles about what it means to be a godly man or woman, I was curious about this book. I’ve read some blog posts at the True Woman website in the past, and I recognize the names of several of the authors. I wondered what they were teaching about biblical womanhood.

Having finished the book, I am very concerned. There are serious foundational problems with the teaching in this book. The most serious are discussions of the Trinity. The authors then use their understanding of the Trinity as the foundation for their teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood.

Probably the next most troubling thing is that the authors use the relationship between husband and wife as the model for all male/female interactions. And while they recognize that some Christians may disagree with them about what they teach, they consider any disagreement to be the result of the feminist movement’s influence on society. The result is that the book tends to be very heavy on law and very light on grace.

Starting from the top, Kassian and DeMoss’s description of the Trinity is concerning:

The first relationship mirrored the image of God. In the Trinity, individual and distinct beings are joined in an inseparable unity. The individual members (Father, Son, and Spirit) are joined as part of the collective whole (God) (93, all page numbers from the ebook version).

I realize that this is most likely an example of sloppy word choice, but it’s very, very important how we talk about the Trinity. The words used make a big difference. The Trinity is not a “God club” with three individual members. If you combine the Westminster Confession and the Athanasian Creed you have the orthodox description:

In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. …  So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. (WCF 2.3; Athanasian Creed 27-28)

God is one being, three persons, equal in glory and power and majesty.

The reason that this sloppy handling of the Trinity is important is that the authors also discuss the Trinity in concerning ways in their definition of what it means to be made in the image of God. Here is their explanation for “Let us make man in our image:”

The discussion about creating man and woman took place among members of the Godhead. It may have been among all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and His Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of the man and the woman (see 1 Cor. 11:13). We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, just think about this: When God created male and female, He had the dynamic of His own relationship in mind. The Lord created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within God (24-25, emphasis mine).

The authors of True Woman 101 teach that there is an authority/submission structure in the very nature of the Godhead. Nancy Leigh DeMoss interviewed Wayne Grudem on the Revive Our Hearts website to discuss “Marriage and the Trinity“:

When did the idea of headship and submission begin? The idea of headship and submission never began. It has existed eternally in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. It exists in the eternal nature of God himself.

And in this most basic of all relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in all attributes and perfections, but authority is just there. Authority belongs to the Father, not because He is wiser or a more skillful leader, but just because He is Father. Authority and submission is the fundamental difference between the persons of the Trinity. (emphasis mine)

When Reformed theologians speak about the Son’s submission to the Father in the work of redemption, they are generally speaking of the economic Trinity, i.e. the way the persons of the Trinity work together in the acts of creation, redemption, etc. This is distinct from the ontological Trinity which concerns the very nature of God. The problem with Grudem’s formulation here and its subsequent use in the True Woman 101 book is that by saying God the Father has supreme authority “just because He is Father,” he is making an ontological statement about the very nature of God.

This is contrary to the traditional formulation found in the Athanasian Creed:

And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.

As a result, the book teaches that there is an inherent inequality in the nature of the Godhead. This is troubling. And it appears to be the result of a desire to ground the complementarian understanding of the relationship between husband and wife in a “deeper truth.”

As you can see from the second half of the above quote from True Woman 101, the authors teach that “[t]he Lord created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within God.” (25) What they are teaching is that, just as there is within the Trinity, there is an authority/submission structure inherent in the creation of men and women:

Males display the glory of God in an uniquely masculine way. Females display the glory of God in a uniquely feminine way. Each sex bears the image of God; but together, they display deep, important truths about God in relationship- God the Father in relationship with the Son of God, and the Son of God in relationship with His bride (33).

According to Kassian and DeMoss, men were created to reflect God the Father’s authority, and women were created to reflect the submission of the Son. Men therefore have a unique calling to lead and to be in authority. Women are made to submit to that authority through being amenable and deferential:

But it does mean that leadership, provision, protection, and responsible initiative are central and indispensable to what God created man to be (57).

And,

The third aspect of a beautiful womanly disposition is the inclination to submit. We believe the Lord created women with a disposition – an inclination – to respond positively to being led. We are the responder-relators created with a “bent” to be amenable (152).

In other words:

He initiated. She responded. The pattern of their relationship reflected who God created them to be (69).

Of course, I do believe that men and women were created with differences inherent in who we are as male and female. I also believe that husbands are called to be the spiritual leaders of their homes and of their wives and that wives are called to submit to the leadership and authority of their husbands.

However, the problem with the book is that the authors of True Woman 101 move beyond the relationship of husband and wife and ground the authority/submission structure in the very nature of male and female. This means that they apply their paradigm of initiation/response to all male/female relationships:

The Bible presents a design for True Womanhood that applies to all women – at any age and at any stage of life – old, young; single, married, divorced, widowed; with children or without, whatever. Its design applies to women of every personality type, every educational level, every career track, every socioeconomic status, and every culture. God’s design transcends social customs, time, and circumstance (20, emphasis original).

For men this means leading, providing, and protecting women:

Man is accountable to God to nourish (provide) and cherish (protect) those in his sphere of responsibility. His primary responsibility is toward his wife. But the charge also extends, in a general way, to the attitude men ought to have toward all women. It is part and parcel of their distinctive, God-created makeup (48-49, emphasis mine).

And,

In other words, the way a man relates to a wife, sister, daughter, colleague, or friend will differ, but all those relationships are informed and influenced who his is as a man. Masculinity means that he accepts a chivalrous responsibility to offer appropriate guidance, provision, and protection to the women in his life (57).

For women, it means responding to the initiative of men:

Having a receptive, responsive spirit is at the core of what it means to be a woman. A godly woman is an “amenable” woman – an agreeable woman. She says yes (amen!). She has a disposition that responds positively to others, and particularly to the initiative of godly men. She is “soft” and not obstinate about receiving direction. She is “leadable” (69).

And,

Whether married or single, an amenable woman affirms and encourages godly qualities and initiative by men by being responsive rather than resistant in her interaction with them. Of course, we’re not talking about being amenable or responsive to sin. But even while saying no to sin, we can have a spirit that is inclined to be responsive, yielding, and deferential (153).

To summarize, men are to initiate and women are to respond in all of life. Of course, I do wonder how this paradigm works with the interaction between Boaz and Ruth. It seems clear to me that Ruth initiated that relationship, on Naomi’s advice. And then there’s Deborah.

The authors continue to apply the relationship of Adam and Eve in creation to all of mankind by discussing woman’s role as a “helper”:

Being a “helper” is a fundamental aspect of our design as women. This calling certainly applies to a woman’s relationship with her husband. But we believe it also extends beyond the marriage relationship. There are many ways we as women can help, rather than hinder, the men around us. We can help them: Glorify God (170).

According to the book, women were made to help men, not just that wives were designed to help husbands in the marriage relationship. This is disturbing, in part, because of what Kassian and DeMoss teach about man’s created purpose vs. woman’s created purpose. They teach that men (males) were created to glorify God and that women were created to help men fulfill that purpose:

The male was created to bring glory to God – and to serve Him (rather than himself). This is man’s ultimate purpose. … God created a helper to assist the man in fulfilling his ultimate purpose. Woman helps man glorify God in a way he could not do if she did not exist (76, emphasis mine).

This is a troubling departure from what the catechism teaches:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. (WSC)

Despite modern understanding, “man” here refers to humanity or mankind. All of mankind, male and female, were created to glorify God. Women are called to glorify God. We may do so in conjunction with men or on our own, but our purpose is not different from that of men.

Kassian and DeMoss spend a considerable amount of the book discussing the dangers and influence of feminism on culture and the church. While I share many of their concerns about the modern feminist movement, especially third wave feminists, they present a muddied and confused picture of the historical feminist movement. As a result, all of the movement is deemed bad and contrary to God’s divine design.

This is unfortunate. As I’ve written elsewhere, the feminist movement started well before the 1960’s, and the earliest feminists were Christian women who were striving to protect and defend women in many worthy ways.

It is somewhat amusing to me that Kassian and DeMoss would depict the feminist movement as universally bad given the numbers of ways in which their own lives have benefited from some of the work of the first and second waves. Ms. DeMoss, for example, is an unmarried woman who lives in her own home, inherited money that she manages, runs her own business, hires employees, earns her own income, publishes books, and speaks publicly to large groups. All of these are blessings and are the result of the work of first wave feminists.

But, back to the book. Kassian and DeMoss view feminism in all forms as rebellion against God’s design for women. They believe that it is contrary to the gospel:

Did feminism identify some valid problems? Yes. Did it propose some helpful changes? It likely did. Can feminism be embraced along with our Christian faith? Absolutely not. Why not? Because it introduces a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) distortion into the way we approach gender and male-female relationships. It contains truth, but it also contains some powerful and destructive lies. And in so doing, it strikes at the very image of God and at an important earthly picture He chose to display the redemptive story. At its core, feminist philosophy is antithetical to the gospel (120).

To be clear, I do believe that there is an anti-God movement within the modern feminist movement. Margaret Sanger is a good example as are many third wave feminists. However, the early feminist philosophy that women were equal in value and worth and should be treated as such is not at all antithetical to the gospel.

According to the book, feminism is wrong and misguided because it misidentifies the root problems in society:

Feminism is based on the wrong premise. It assumes that ‘patriarchy’ is the ultimate cause of woman’s pain. It proposes the wrong solution. It says that women have the right, the knowledge, and the power to redefine and rectify the male-female relationship. It’s fueled by the wrong attitude. It encourages anger, bitterness, resentment, self-reliance, independence, arrogance, and a pitting of woman against man. It exalts the wrong values. Power, prestige, personal attainment, and financial gain are exalted over service, sacrifice, and humility. Manhood is devalued. Morality is devalued. Marriage is devalued. Motherhood is devalued. In sum, feminism promotes ways of thinking that stand in direct opposition to the Word of God and to the beauty of His created order (121).

Kassian and DeMoss have created a false dichotomy. While it’s true that modern feminists often demean and devalue men, marriage, and morality, that doesn’t mean that patriarchy isn’t a real problem. Throughout the True Woman book, patriarchy is generally put in scare quotes which signals that the authors don’t see it as a real topic of concern. In fact, they appear to support patriarchy, calling it “God’s divine design”:

Culture promotes a way of thinking about womanhood that is decidedly feminist. Its solution to the battle of the sexes is to dismantle patriarchy, and in the process, undermine and dismantle God’s divine design (132).

Patriarchy is an actual problem and is not God’s design. It has been a problem for women and society for thousands of years. Dismissing the truth of that does not help Kassian and DeMoss in their concerns about feminism. One can disagree with the devaluing of men and also believe that there exist those who devalue and demean women. Both extremes are bad, and both extremes are at work in our culture and churches.

My final concerns about the True Woman 101 book has to do with the practical applications. This has three basic parts: divorce, abuse, and a lack of grace/gospel. These are the ways in which the book’s teachings will impact and hurt women, families, and churches.

First, the True Woman manifesto, which all book study participants are encouraged to read and sign, teaches a permanence view of marriage. That means that divorce is not allowed in any way for any reason. The view would say there are no biblical grounds for divorce, not adultery, abandonment, or abuse. This teaching is dangerous. It’s contrary to the Bible, and it’s contrary to the teachings of my denomination.

Second, because of their belief in the permanence of marriage, their teachings on the nature of women to submit, and their dismissive attitude to the dangers of patriarchy and men who misuse their authority, the book creates a perfect environment for abuse to flourish. Instead of recognizing that men can and do abuse women even in the church, Kassian and DeMoss make a point of sin-leveling which makes abuse just another of the many sins in a relationship and we’re all sinners:

The problem in the male-female relationship isn’t men. It’s sin. And sin is something that affects women just as much as it affects men. Men and women may sin in different ways, but the truth of the matter is that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Women are not innocent. Women are sinners. Women can’t fix sin. So we can’t fix men (112).

At one point in the book, Mary Kassian relates a story of one of her friends who was abused by her husband. Kassian tells of being very angry and wanting to confront the man for what he did. She goes on to say that her husband took her aside and reminded her that the abusive man wasn’t the real problem, but that sin was. (111)

While it’s certainly true that sin is the root problem in all relationships, it is right and proper to confront a sinner for his sin and to hold him accountable. The answer is not shrugging our shoulders and lamenting the sins that damage our relationships while submitting to the abuse. It’s also not teaching women that their own sins are equally at fault in abusive situations.

Kassian and DeMoss seem to recognize that the teachings in True Woman might be understood to encourage abuse, but they dismiss that as silly:

We’ve heard all sorts of dismal prognoses about what will happen to women who decide to push back from the table of wildness and embrace God’s vision for womanhood instead. … You’ll encourage abuse. … Sorry but those dire threats are just plain silly. The truth is, as anxious as we might be about what could happen if we fully follow the Lord, we should be more concerned about what will happen if we don’t! (136)

The authors would do well to get to know the very real women and children who have been hurt and abused by men who have taken teachings like True Woman 101 and used them as support for their abuse. When men are told they hold the authority and reflect the authority of God the Father in their relationships with women, there are bound to be men who see this as just the affirmation they need to treat their wives and children in abusive ways. Combine that with women being told they must be soft and amenable and deferential to all men and that divorce is never an option, and you have women who are conditioned not to speak up and not to get help:

Are you angry at some man for the way he has treated you? … how does God want you to respond? How does the gospel of Christ motivate and enable that kind of response? ‘For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.’ (123)

My final concern about the practical implications of the book is that there is very little grace or gospel. The whole of True Woman 101 is filled with commands, musts, shoulds, and questions designed to show women how far they are from the “biblical womanhood” ideal. The weight of the failure of marriages and society itself is placed on women acting in rebellion to the picture of femininity that Kassian and DeMoss hold up as the standard. And once a woman is feeling terrible over how far she has missed the mark, the solution the book gives is not to turn to Christ but to work harder.

Take a moment to “fess up” in prayer. Ask the Lord to help you take personal responsibility for your choices, to acknowledge where you have chosen your way rather than His (92)

Do you think your attitude is in line with God’s ideal? If not, how could you bring it more in line? (94)

How do you need to adjust your attitude toward womanhood so that it matches His? (136)

Which “standard of teaching” about gender do you think God wants you to obey? (142)

How devoted a bride are you? Fill out the following devotion report card. In the column to the right of each statement, give yourself a grade ranging from A to D for how devoted you are to Christ (145).

Go back and fill out the shaded part of the report card. Give yourself a grade for how devoted you are to your husband (146).

Are you a helper or hinderer? Are there any ways you may be hindering the men around you from becoming all God created them to be? (170)

What are some possible effects of ignoring or rejecting God’s design for womanhood – on women, the home, the church, and the culture? (172)

Without godly womanly influence, its moral fabric would unravel, families would fail, and it would certainly sink into degradation and ruin (174)

What do you intend to do to support the vision for the quiet “counterrevolution” that we’ve shared? (178)

Kassian and DeMoss even go so far as to suggest that if you disagree with them on these matters, you are actually disagreeing with God, and your salvation might be in question:

Obedience is an evidence that we are truly children of God (1 Peter 1:14; see also Heb. 5:9; 11:8). In fact, according to Scripture, those who persistently disobey His Word, those who have no inclination to obey Him, have no basis for assurance that they belong to Him (36-37).

And ultimately women are responsible for their own righteousness:

But it’s particularly important for us women to listen up and pay attention to these passages, because “bride” is the part of the gospel story women are uniquely designed to tell. The spotlessness of the bride’s wedding dress reflects the type of character that God desires for women. A True Woman dressed in the beauty of holiness. … Holiness isn’t an abstract concept. It translates into practical, daily attitudes and behaviors (148).

There is no good news here. According to Kassian and DeMoss, women are the ones at fault, but if we follow these guidelines for biblical womanhood then we can be holy. That’s not the gospel. In fact, the book is so works oriented and so lacking in Christ’s work of redemption that a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness reading it would probably not be offended in the least.

While there is more that I could write about True Woman 101 and my concerns, these are the ones that I found the most troubling. There were a couple of quotes that I found that I did agreed with, although not for the reasons the authors intended. I’ll close with these:

You need to be smart when it comes to the messages you listen to (132).

[S]ome people use the Bible to defend views and practices that are anything but biblical (181).

60 thoughts on “True Woman 101: Divine Design

  1. sheilagregoire says:

    Thank you, Rachel. That was just excellent. I have very similar concerns about both writers, and it’s wonderful to have this written so succinctly here so I can bookmark it and return to it later when questions from others pop up. It sounds like they’re making similar mistakes to the ones that Debi Pearl made. That’s sad–I thought we were done with the Debi Pearl mess. But now it’s returned in a different, and more intellectual, form.

    Completely agree with you about feminism, by the way. Susan B. Anthony has always been my hero!

  2. sheilagregoire says:

    One more thing, Rachel–I’ve noticed that the book is rated very highly on Amazon. Would you consider posting your post as an Amazon review? As an author, I know how much Amazon reviews matter. If there are some intelligent ones on the OTHER side, saying, “this book isn’t correct theology”, it does make a huge difference. Right now there seems to be no one saying that, and then when the book is suggested to a woman and she checks it out, it’s easy for her to feel like she’s crazy if she doesn’t like it, since everyone else obviously does.

  3. Persis says:

    Thank you, Rachel, for this thoughtful and valid critique. Tampering with the doctrine of God is never wise, and the practical implications of their teaching are dangerous. To use “silly” in regard to domestic abuse is callous, insulting, and incredibly disconnected from women in the pews who are/were targets of domestic violence.

    It’s funny how people can see the problems with Debi Pearl but they ignore the ones in books like this.

  4. jacarroll71 says:

    Thanks, Rachel. It’s too easy for many of us to simply trust certain authors because they have written well in the past. You have taken us back to good theology and the gospel in evaluating this book.

  5. Jeff S says:

    Amazing. You are a very clear thinking and this was well done.

    I’m familiar with these arguments, and (to your dismay, I’m sure) they started me on a path that led me out of complementarianism altogether (after a lot of study). I think they are dangerous, and the stuff about the Trinty is really disturbing to me because it seems like the tail wagging the dog in terms of doctrine.

    But it’s heartening to see someone who embraces gender roles call these harmful teachings into question.

  6. Ellen Mandeville says:

    I just finish a TW101 Bible study in Women’s group at my church. Even though there were several times I wanted to quit, I carried on with a “First seek to understand” mindset. Your review is well-written and accurate. During the sections on “Steel Magnolias” regarding being careful what we accept as truth, I found myself agreeing with those statements and rejecting much of what was written by Kassian and DeMoss.

  7. Grainne says:

    We have an egalitarian marriage after studying carefully excellent works on both sides of the question. Craig Keener’s work, amongst other searching and fair studies, has provided a thorough argument for seeing marriage as the equal partnership God intended. Well, we have been married for 46 years and my husband and I are still delighted with each other, praising our Lord together. These women may as well be writing for Islam! We thank God, too, for those brave women who struggled for the vote, for property rights and many other issues in the early days. As with any other human effort things go awry. The early trades unions had Christian beginnings, for example. So we would not support the third wave, would oppose abortion etc, without relinquishing for one moment our gratitude for the great contribution of the early feminists, nor giving up our stand on egalitarianism. We are actually appalled by this book.

  8. Fish on a bicycle says:

    Thank you for a balanced, thoughtful review. I participated in this bible study with my church and it deeply wounded me and my faith. The prescriptivism is a ham-fisted way to propagate Stepford Christians. “Good” Christian women look, act, and think like this. And are thus easier to control.

    It’s also insulting to men! My husband took me to be his partner in the journey of life, not his personal assistant/echo chamber. We relate to each other as one Christian to another, trying — and sometimes failing — to live out the behavior modeled by Christ. I personally believe in using the Whole Counsel of God to direct and guide me — not the proof-texted agenda of Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Love your name, btw. Made me smile. Thank you for affirming what I saw in the book. I’m sorry for the hurt you experienced. The reason I wrote the review is primarily because of my concern for what this teaching will do to women in the church.

    • Barbara Roberts says:

      “My husband took me to be his partner in the journey of life, not his personal assistant/echo chamber.”

      I love your turns of phrase, fish, in your screen name and in this bit I quoted from you. 🙂

  9. Carmon Friedrich says:

    Thank you so much for your review, Rachel. I actually taught a Bible study a few years ago using the original book, _Becoming God’s True Woman_. 🙂

    I absolutely agree with you about the difference between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity, and I have known for awhile that Grudem teaches a view that would make many reformed people uncomfortable. I do think, though, that there is validity in saying that the relational Trinity models for us how our relationships should function (without connecting particular roles to particular persons in the Trinity to husbands and wives, who both fully reflect all of God’s image). The simultaneous individuality and unity within the Trinity is a beautiful picture of healthy relationship, retaining uniqueness and personality as well as oneness. Marriages where spouses are either too self-centered or too “enmeshed” so that you can’t tell where one person ends and the other begins are both unhealthy examples of falling into the ditch on either side of the road. This concept is explained beautifully in a book I think you would like by Judith and Jack Balswick, called _The Family_.

  10. Retha says:

    ” “bride” is the part of the gospel story women are uniquely designed to tell. The spotlessness of the bride’s wedding dress reflects the type of character that God desires for women. A True Woman dressed in the beauty of holiness.”

    This is as anti-gospel as can be. In fact, the gospel is the story of us sinning and Jesus saving – Jesus takes a whore as a bride and forgives, He does not demand perfection of us before we can walk down the aisle. If the dress is spotless, it is because He cleaned it.

    If you actually want women to symbolize being the bride of Christ, you’ll encourage them to sleep around pre-marriage in defiance of the rules good men make, and then marrying a good man anyway.

  11. Barbara Roberts says:

    Well done, Rachel!
    The doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son is indeed pernicious, and in my view it is an indictment on MANY in the complementarian church that they have let the likes of Wayne Grudem get away with promoting it, in rebellion against the Athanasian Creed.

    I watched some of the True Woman 101 videos ages ago and found so many disturbing things in them. They talk out of both sides of their mouth, saying they deplore wive abuse, and that a woman should not submit to sin, but also giving that mantra about being women being adaptable and amenable to men. They give little to no guidance about how a wife may rightly resist an abusive husband.

    Nancy DeMoss has never married yet she thinks herself qualified to pontificate to any and every married woman. I think it’s highly likely she has never wittingly experienced the subtle but iniquitous effects of male privilege* and the subordination of women, because she has independent wealth and it seems that male leaders in the conservative church curry her favour and honour her with their pulpits because she (via inherited wealth from her father) can give their complementarian causes and parachurch organisations great financial favours and approbation/kudos.

    Nancy Kassian is married to a man who by her account is a caring husband. In my opinion, she applies and over-generalises her marital experience to all other women. Notwithstanding her statements sometimes which seem to be very compassionate to women who are victims of marital abuse, she seems to be unable (unwilling?) to realise the limitions and blinders she has.

    To demonstrate this, the rest of this comment is my transcript of a segment from Week 5 of the True Woman 101 videos:

    (13 mins 55 sec)
    Mary Kassian: When I just think of the pain in the lives of women, we need to acknowledge that because we cannot take that lightly, I do not take that lightly. I cannot tell you the number of girlfriends who I have ministered to who have been so broken at the point of their relationship with men, and have been abused — and just atrocities, atrocities. And the brokenness and the pain of sin it is so ugly, so ugly.

    I’ve watched through situations with girlfriends of mine who were being abused by their husbands. And this one girlfriend, her husband was telling her,
    “You need to submit to me and that includes submitting to the way that I treat you,” and he started physically abusing her. And walking that through with her — because that’s not what the Bible teaches! We do not submit to sin, we do not submit to unrighteousness.

    Your husband asks you to watch porn with him: your higher calling is to respond to the right thing, which is responding to God. You see, Eve responded to the wrong thing. We’re responders, and we need to have that responsive soft spirit. We want to respond to the right thing; and we want to be that helper that challenges our men to a higher standard of godliness.

    And I know that in my marriage that there is no-one in my husband’s life that can gently, and with as much impact, challenge him to be the man he needs to be, in a gentle and loving way, at the right time. When I speak a word to him, he listens, because of the power I think God has given us to be influencers in that way.

    • Barbara Roberts says:

      My point it that just because Mary Kassian’s husband listens to her when she challenges him in a responsive, soft, spirit, in a gentle and loving way, at the right time, her recipe for influencing her husband is the recipe that ALL wives shoud use — and if a wife is not impacting her husband like this, she must look to herself for the fault: she must not be doing it gently or lovingly enough, or her timing must be wrong.

      Kassian needs to admit to herself —and to all her readers —that her recipe does not work with abusive husbands. When a wife applies the Kassian/DeMoss recipe to an abusive husband, he just mocks, controls and takes advantage of her more than ever.

  12. p j wilson says:

    Thank you Barbara ,so many women have been abused and scarred for life ,by the actions of males ,who distort our Lords word ,to justify their own desires. I would like to see a Godly women write a book telling the true stories of abusive christian husbands ,and the way they have damaged their wives and children. I rarely tell about my abuse now ,for every time I have ,a women comes to me ,usually as I am leaving and asks ”is it abuse ….when he punches the wall next to my head…….when he locks me in the bathroom and won’t let me out till he’s finished shouting at me….before he gives a talk he squeezes my arms so much ,they’re bruised……is shaking me abuse . They have all thought they were to blame . Books like the one reviewed are not going to help women , it will help the men who want to justify abuse

    • Barbara Roberts says:

      Hi p j Wilson, re the idea of a book- an Aussie woman who goes by the pseudonym Isabella Young has a FB page and she is inviting survivors of domestic abuse to send her their stories by email. She is focusing on Christian survivors from Australia, but she might also take stories from other countries. She intends to compile the stories into a book.

      But you can in the meantime find many survivors’ stories at A Cry For Justice – we have a tag for survivors’ stories. Cryingoutforjustice.com

  13. A Thinker Thinking a Thinking on Thinking says:

    Thank you, Rachel, for your review. Of the ladies’ Bible studies that I’ve done, most are a bit vapid and/or fast and loose with Scripture, and a few are outright pernicious, as this book appears to be. I’m thinking of giving up on the lady Bible study genre entirely. My ladies’ study right now is using “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ” by Piper, which has been lovely, but obviously isn’t part of the lady-study oeuvre. Any recommendations for good ladies’ Bible studies?

    • Rachel Miller says:

      I can highly recommend Nancy Guthrie’s series on seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. Also Aimee Byrd’s Housewife Theologian and her new book Theological Fitness. Melissa Kruger’s The Envy of Eve is good. Also Gloria Furman’s books are good if you want a study geared to young mothers.

      • Emily Evans says:

        I’m brand new here, but I would recommend Jen Wilkins’ studies (http://jenwilkin.blogspot.com/p/bible-study.html). They were written by a woman (obviously) and include podcasts for each week with solid teaching, but they are not topical and instead dive deeply into scripture and help teach women how to study the Bible. Not there’s anything wrong with topical studies, but it’s also been refreshing to have a study written for women that is applicable to everyone and about more than women’s roles.

  14. Chris says:

    Quoting you…”First, the True Woman manifesto, which all book study participants are encouraged to read and sign, teaches a permanence view of marriage. That means that divorce is not allowed in any way for any reason. The view would say there are no biblical grounds for divorce, not adultery, abandonment, or abuse. This teaching is dangerous. It’s contrary to the Bible, and it’s contrary to the teachings of my denomination.” Quoting True Woman Manifesto…”Marriage, as created by God, is a sacred, binding, lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.”

    Your addition of “that means….” is what I see throughout your blog/review as concerning. You were putting words in that aren’t on the True Woman Manifesto. You often quote parts of the book and then put your twist on it, referring to your Catholic faith. And there lies the problem with this entire review. Catholics live by creeds and a catechism that are laced with unbiblical teachings. Until we all pick up our Bibles and study and pray to the One who has ALL the answers, blogs and books written by sinners will only continue to lead astray. I happen to think True Woman authors are MUCH more on target that anything said here but I happen to know Biblical truth when I see it. The Bible is the ONLY true Word of God and I look to it for my leading, not some denomination’s beliefs that are man-made. Religion will not save you, only a relationship with our Lord and Savior will. Catholics believe that good works and their religion will save. The Bible tells us that NO ONE is good. And your idea of grace is not Biblical either. Grace is not an excuse for disobedience. Please ladies! Read your Bibles, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth and do not rely on anything else! We are weak Spiritually and only the Holy Spirit can guide us into truth. Left to our own desires, we will listen to those who make us feel better about ourselves and the choices we prefer. It’s not about us feeling better or thinking we are right, it’s about what our Lord and Savior desires of us. READ YOUR BIBLES!

  15. Carl Walker says:

    Thanks Rachel, have followed your writting for years… as far as Chris’ comment about you not understanding grace, it seems you and Paul in Romans have been accused of the very same thing, that is some good company you keep!

  16. Jesaja 66:2 says:

    Amen! Scripture – the Word of God – ALONE is the source for our way as pilgrims on earth – and it is the SUFFICIENT source for it, to equip us perfectly for every good work and to keep our eyes, hearts and minds focused (2Tim 3:15-17). Thank you for this hint!
    See also: “The Word of God (not only) in the 21st Century” (https://jesaja662.wordpress.com/word-of-god-wort-gottes/das-wort-gottes-heute-the-word-of-god-today/the-word-of-god-not-only-in-the-21st-century/)

  17. Michelle says:

    A few years ago, I read “Lies Women Believe” by Nancy Leigh Demoss. In what I read then and what I read in your article and from my experience in an abusive and mysoginistic spouse and church, I perceive the author and others with her similar view have set-up men as gods and marriage as an idol. From my understanding, Ms. Demoss has never been married and therefore speaks from a place of lack of knowledge of experiencing marriage or an abusive relationship filled with betrayal by a human man, not a god. In my own situation, I wrote to her organization to tell of the damage her teaching had in my own marriage. The reply gave only poor counsel to pray to God more than talking to my spouse about his adultery.

  18. Toiler says:

    Thank you! I have been a Christian woman for over 20 years…married to an unbeliever that had an abusive domineering earthly father. I thought my husband was a Christian when we married, only to find out later that I did not know him well at all. Fast-forward to 2 years ago, my husband accepted Christ. At first, I saw a new creation before my eyes. This man was learning and growing in the Lord. I was amazed and our relationship was getting better. We began attending a church of my husband’s choice (I was just so stinkin excited to see him go to church at all) that began teaching these “TrueWoman” type ways. John Piper and Nancy Lee Demoss seem to be the true leadership by way of our pastor jumping on to their points of views. My husband quickly started domineering in our home. He wanted submission from his wife and children. He wanted us to sit at his feet and learn from him. He wanted support and adoration from everyone. He wanted service and loyalty. Everything became HIS way. He knew BEST in EVERYTHING. He began to want more and more sex. He frequently criticized our sexual encounters. I wasn’t “into enough”. I didn’t seem like I adored him enough. I wasn’t loving him enough.

    I sank into a deep depression. I began to see God differently than ever before. I felt like God was ONLY for my husband and not for me unless I was more obedient…more submissive…more adoring. I began to see myself as only a person in regards to my husband. Not an individual loved my Christ. I didn’t even feel like a human being anymore. Only a servant…and a terrible one at that. I don’t go to church anymore. I can’t pray. I don’t trust God. I struggle so hard to believe He loves me anymore. I don’t know what the future holds and I am scared for my salvation.

    This message NEEDS to get out there. Something is happening in the church and I don’t think it is good. There has been such a HUGE counter response to feminism that the pendulum has swung back the other way and it is LEADING TO ABUSE!!! They don’t see it. But it is happening in homes everywhere. Women are being told to be quiet and submit and men think THEIR WAY is God ordained. The signals are getting crossed and this may just ruin more marriages than it hopes to fix. I CAN NOT send a BIGGER warning to the church that they are silently killing their women and promoting their men to idol status. Please…someone with a voice…speak out for us little women with no voice. I pray God removes this veil from my eyes. I pray He sticks up for his daughters with this toxic message.

    • Carmon Friedrich says:

      Dear Toiler, I am SO sad to hear the way you have suffered from this teaching. I think of the deep disappointment you felt after being so happy that your husband had come to Christ and wanted to be in the church, only to have him use it as a way to “game the system” and enable his abuse. That is not Who God is, nor is it the way the church is supposed to function. There are churches that do not have this view of women.

      In addition to the resources Barbara has mentioned, you might also find some practical advice and encouragement at Leslie Veronica’s blog. She is a therapist who counsels women in abusive marriages and you will get courage from reading these things and seeing that what you have been going through is NOT how it is meant to be! http://leslievernick.com/blog/

    • Barbara Roberts says:

      And Toiler, i relate to your experience of feeling such delight when your husband came to the Lord… but let me rephrase that…. when he APPEARED to come to the Lord.

      I rephrase it because one has to ask how a man could truly be born again and thus be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and yet lap up the teaching that empowered him to intensify his abuse of his wife. Any believer who would feel deeply convicted by the Spirit if he treated his wife the way your husband treated/treats you. And person who was truly converted would not gleefully take advantage of bad teaching in order to mistreat his wife.

      I relate to your experience in this way. After I had been separated from my abusive husband for four years, he appeared to come to faith and he started going to church, hearing from the Lord in dreams, liking to read the Bible, etc. So I decided to reconcile with him. Within a year he was physically abusing me again. But that entire year of us living together as man and wife again he had been abusing me emotionally … I was too in the fog to see it. I only woke up when he pushed me against a wall.

  19. Barbara Roberts says:

    Dear Toiler
    At A Cry For Justice we are seeking to awaken the evangelical church to domestic violence and abuse in its midst. Find us at cryingoutforjustice.com

    And we have a post about the very thing you’ve seen in your husband:

    How complementarianism can magnify the entitlement mentality of men, making them worse

    https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/07/30/how-complementarianism-can-magnify-the-entitlement-mentality-of-men-making-them-worse/

  20. Hannah says:

    A better title for the True Woman 101 Bible study would be…
    Personal Opinions We Pretend Are in the Bible on How to Save Yourself From the Ultimate Evil: Feminism

  21. Sara Hughes says:

    Can someone explain to me why complementarians are comparing the husband wife relationship to the trinity when Paul clearly compared it to Christ and the church? What differences would the second comparison make in their platform?

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